Other Things Happen, Too

his school is too small. The number of people is enough to be stressful but not enough to get lost in a crowd. And it’s too few people to hide from those you absolutely do not want to see. 

I was in a really bad relationship on campus in the past. I got out of it ok and only later realized the severity of what had happened. It took time for me to identify the feelings and lingering effects that I still deal with. There were so many gray areas, so the way I often define it is as sexual and emotional abuse. 

It wasn’t a one time thing. The bad part lasted a couple of months. It was my first relationship and I trusted him. He was the one that knew things, so the problems and discomfort and bad feelings had to be my fault.

There are a number of things that I understand better now. Just because someone loves you does not mean that you have to have sex with them. Being depressed is a very valid reason to not want to have sex- you actually don’t owe a reason at all. Saying yes once (or not saying no) does not mean yes to everything. If you feel bad around the person you’re with, that’s not actually a problem with you. These are all things I knew in theory but was too full of self doubt and misplaced trust to see happening to me. 

I would sit in my room and cry after the fact, which is not a normal reaction to a normal and acceptable thing. I’m sometimes haunted by the thought that I should’ve said no and pushed him off, acknowledging what I had been trying so hard to bury for those couple months. I remember the first and only time that I wasn’t able to hold in my tears until I was alone again. I remember finally telling myself that I would never let it happen again, never let myself be used like that, acknowledging what had happened and that it wasn’t ok. I guess that’s what would be classified as sexual assault. I sometimes have trouble classifying it like that and often choose the term abuse instead. Other things happen here, too.

And we’re both still here at Olin. Part of why my name is not on this piece is because I would feel guilty about the consequences he’d face. I know everyone else on campus who looks anything like him in my peripheral vision. I’ve gotten especially good at taking a quick second glance just to assure myself that it’s someone else. In the hallways and stairwells and especially the dining hall. I’m not afraid of all men, just the one. And on hard days, being reminded of it all again by just seeing that person can feel impossible. 

There are sections of the dorms I avoid, not because anything or anyone is actually there but because it’s where things happened in the past and I don’t want to think about that again. I had trouble at the beginning of the year going to the dining hall on my own, worried that I would freeze up and have to just leave without getting food. I have to try and see who’s in my classes so I know if there are conflicts, and then hurriedly change my schedule at the last minute. 

I’m incredibly lucky to have a strong support system and friends that will back me up with anything, no questions asked. But I can’t help but feel for those on campus who deal with the same struggle and go unseen and unprotected. There are no resources, no real support system outside of what you can create for yourself, it’s only on you to avoid and escape. 

We know that this happens here. We’ve known for a long time that bad things happen here and get brushed under the rug. I can only imagine how many others on campus are also hurting, from similar situations or something else that makes being here that much more difficult. And we’re just too small for anonymous support. I can’t begin to describe what it would mean to me to have a group that also understood what this feels like. A reminder that I’m not alone, that there are people with me, that it wasn’t all my fault.

I don’t want to relive my trauma by taking it to StAR. I don’t want to be forced to tell people, because it’s hard to talk about it and they see me differently. I don’t want anyone to have power over me anymore. I just want to have control of what I can, and don’t trust StAR to truly give that to me. 

So read this and share it and talk about it and put yourself in the positions of others. And if you relate to this, I am here for you and I am here with you. Things are really hard here, harder than they should be. In my mind, graduation coincides with finally being free of my abuser. I’m not entirely sure if he even knows what he did to me, but maybe he’s figuring it out now. And he’ll probably read this too, and so to him I say, respectfully, fuck you. 

If have a message for the author, email mbeltur@olin.edu

Why The Disinformation Problem Is This Bad, And What We Can Do To Start Fixing It 

War in 2022 does not only involve combat boots on the ground. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been countless cyberattacks all over the globe, even here at Olin. The United States and European Union have used sanctions, financial and travel limits, and other economic levers to put pressure on Vladimir Putin’s government. But one of the most deeply unsettling and dangerous fronts in this war is being fought in the form of (dis)information. In this article, I’ll explain some of the reasons why disinformation has become a virulent social problem in the United States and offer tips on how to be a more mindful consumer of what you read online. This is an incredibly complex issue, so for more reading on the topic, please see the resources linked throughout this piece.

The public spending decisions in the U.S. that have impoverished schools, libraries, institutes of higher education, and more – combined with declining trust in the government and the mainstream media – have created a fertile environment for disinformation to spread. With even trusted organizations like the CDC backtracking some of their findings during the COVID response, it’s legitimately difficult to know who or what to trust. Disinformation also fills a social gap. Former QAnon adherent Lenka Perron told the New York Times in 2021 about how, feeling abandoned by politicians, ignored by the media, and lonely in her life, she found emotional support among Q believers. Stories like Perron’s demonstrate that the response to disinformation can’t only be teaching people how to better evaluate the news. People are not seeking the truth so much as they are seeking validation of existing beliefs and community support.

Disinformation researchers and librarians also blame the rise of social media platforms using algorithms that promote the most incendiary and divisive voices. Big Tech dominates the information landscape with billions of users, creates uncontrolled vectors of “fake news,” and undermines everyone’s ability to thoughtfully consume information. Educators are simply not equipped to combat these issues when advertising and social media giants like Facebook and YouTube design their algorithms to encourage maximum engagement rather than accuracy or reliability. While some platforms are finally attempting to squelch disinformation, corporations should not be allowed to serve as the sole arbiters of speech in a democracy. 

Worsening economic conditions, widespread fear and loneliness, the engagement-driven algorithms of Big Tech, and defunded educational institutions have created a serious problem that needs to be fought from multiple fronts. This is all in combination with a deluge of calculated disinformation tactics utilized by actors with nationalist interests and a desire for global destabilization. These tactics are the product of decades-old state-sponsored disinformation campaigns in Russia, described by one KGB defector as having a goal of changing “the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that, despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.”

Disinformation about Ukraine isn’t just coming from Russian intelligence agencies and rogue agents, though. On the one hand, you have a master propagandist in Putin, unabashedly playing the victim even as he orchestrates aggression, using his administration to spin tales of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his “Nazi guys,” as a Russian politician repeatedly said in a recent interview with BBC Newshour. On the other, you have the French media outlet that published a moving video of a Ukrainian girl confronting a Russian soldier…that was actually a Palestinian girl confronting an Israeli soldier in 2012. This is not to establish a false equivalency between the significance of these stories, but to make the point that no matter who we support, our very human confirmation bias diminishes our ability to evaluate information.

Shifting gears to techniques we might use for assessing the information we see online, I want to start by invoking the SIFT method we teach in library instruction sessions at Olin. SIFT is a four-step process for learning to think like a fact checker. We usually teach it in the context of the much more slow-moving and deliberate process of research vs. assessing stories shared through chat or social media, but the core strategies still apply.


News is generated and spread in such an overwhelming and lightning-fast manner in 2022 that it is disorienting and tough to keep up with even in “slower” news cycles. The first step of SIFT is to stop and think – what are you even looking at? If you’re tracking stories from many miles away in areas you don’t have much familiarity with, you are going to be inherently limited in your ability to understand what’s going on. You may also be overly emotional while you’re reading or watching, and that can sway your interpretations. It’s okay to recognize you may not be able to follow certain kinds or sources of news. The next step in the process can help you find ways to stay up to date while acknowledging your limitations.

Investigate the Source

There are many kinds of sources visible on the web these days, not just encyclopedias, newspapers, and research articles. Independent writers and freelance journalists can be critical trustworthy eyewitnesses during events, sharing their firsthand experiences as they happen. Unfortunately, there are also fake accounts, bots, and spammers to watch out for. Mike Caulfield, misinformation researcher and one of the creators of SIFT, prompts us to ask if a source is “‘in the know’ — do they have *significantly* above average knowledge of a situation because of expertise, profession, life experience, or location?” He also asks us to consider a source’s personal and professional incentives, and to wait for better sources or more verification of developing news stories rather than rushing to share breaking stories the moment you find them.

Find Better Coverage

This step is a close partner with “investigate the source.” It’s critical to be extra careful about this when dealing with contexts that you may not be familiar with because of your geographic location, upbringing, or other limitations of perspectives. Ukraine is a country of over 40 million people; there are numerous mainstream media outlets, and most Americans need to do quite a bit of homework on learning which ones are reliable. It’s important to distinguish where finding better coverage is more important than investigating a source. “If you get an article that says koalas have just been declared extinct from the Save the Koalas Foundation, your best bet might not be to investigate the source, but to go out and find the best source you can on this topic,” Caulfield suggests, “or, just as importantly, to scan multiple sources and see what the expert consensus seems to be.”

Trace Back to the Original Context

In the final move of SIFT, we acknowledge that the internet strips images and words of their original context. You might see the middle minutes of a video, hear audio edited to change the speaker’s intended meaning, or see a reference to a medical study in an article that describes its conclusions inaccurately. In these cases, you should try to find the original, undoctored source or the cited article, but it may not be possible to do that. When it’s not, try to let it go. Is your best option to share something when you have 20% of the story, or an incorrect but interesting interpretation of it?

SIFT is not the solution to disinformation. Disinformation is a complex and entrenched problem in the U.S. exacerbated not only by slashed education budgets, crumbling public infrastructure, and social media giants with too much power, but also by state-sponsored or independent actors who are deliberately working to destabilize trust in democracy. It’s not something that any one individual can solve. That said, learning how to start thinking like a fact checker is one action we can individually take to help today. This article only begins to unpack small parts of the disinformation ecosystem, but a better understanding of how we got here can inspire us to work on rebuilding the support systems we have lost.

Street Symphony: A Solution?

In this 2012 TED Talk, Robert Vijay Gupta announces to the world that he will be stepping into the footsteps of the Medicinal Musicians and Community-based healthcare pioneers that preceded him. Referencing people like Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, Gupta tells us of the neurological benefits of music and his work with the homeless population of the Skid Row neighborhood in Los Angeles. Listening to Gupta as he stands up on the stage in a, according to TEDMed, several thousand dollar-per seat auditorium, playing classical music and referencing intellectuals it is hard not to feel conflicted about his proclamation.

Today we hop online and see so many snake-oil salespeople and saviors superficially taking action to save the world. Often, their action is unsustainable and unable to effect positive structural change. It makes it difficult for consumers to discern the sincere from the insincere. So, as Gupta presents himself as an obviously educated man, praising other educated men, and playing what I’ve been told is Bach, it is almost impossible not to wonder how sincere he actually is. And if he is sincere, what is his plan to serve the homeless population of Skid Row?

His solution, Street Symphony, is a nonprofit that “brings the light of music into very dark places.” By offering incarcerated people as well as the homeless, formerly incarcerated and mentally ill people of Skid Row, opportunities to engage with music, Gupta hopes to successfully apply music therapy concepts, like melodic intonation therapy, to positively impact their lives. 

Despite the aesthetic of privilege that veils this lecture, Gupta conveys with real depth the value of music in medicine as well as the importance of his application of such value. By referencing the topical example of music in neurology,  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ use of music in her therapy after being the victim of  an assassination attempt, as well as the work of other prominent modern neurologists, he convinces the audience of the value of Medicinal Music. And, through his personal experience with Nathaniel Ayers, a once musical prodigy battling with homelessness and schizophrenia that uses music as a therapy, Gupta takes another step, showing that Medicinal Music has the potential to create real value for critically underprivileged and often forgotten communities.

After watching the lecture, I was certainly intrigued by the narratives and goals that Gupta shared. But, I am also a privileged and educated man listening. This is a TED Talk, and I am the intended audience. The existence of privilege in this lecture, just like the medium of the lecture, are all tools that Gupta employs to generate interest for his cause in the privileged. 

Since this 2012 lecture, Gupta has continued Street Symphony and in 2018 received a MacArthur “Genius” grant. Gupta has certainly proven his sincerity to the cause with his dedication over time. Today he refers to this dedication as his “creative ‘sadhana’ – the Sanskrit word meaning ‘daily spiritual practice.’” This is even more impactful considering the strain that following his creative “sadhana”  has created in his personal life. Gupta shared with the L.A. Times that “[Street Symphony] has a real financial impact on [his] life.” This MacArthur grant is a life buoy, not in the sense that Gupta has been drowning, but instead that he no longer has to keep swimming so vigorously. 

The MacArthur grant is one metric by which we can assume that Street Symphony has made a real impact in the Skid Row community. But, a more real metric is what the organization has accomplished within the community. Today Street Symphony has put on over 400 free concerts for severely disenfranchised communities. Since 2015 they have presented yearly performances of Handel’s Messiah, and have launched a program that pairs professional artists with members of the homeless community. And, on top of that, the organization has grown with the community that it serves by giving career opportunities to participants. 

I have still not resolved the conflict that stirred while watching Gupta’s 2012 lecture. Has the impact been as he initially claimed? How has the community that Street Symphony serves been positively and significantly impacted? Just like Paul Farmer’s work with the global poor’s impact is controversial, so is Gupta’s work with the Skid Row communities. Both applications of community-based outreach could be described as ineffective due to their inherent limitations in impact and as potentially harmful given the power that the privileged have over the population the programs aim to serve. Paul Farmer’s Partners In Health, while good at providing medical assistance to the community, does not impact the other, arguably more, fundamental problems that the community experiences and has been subjected to backlash from the community in several of their locations due to these limitations and uneven power dynamics. 

With some caution, I am inspired by Gupta’s lecture and work. One could also argue that problems only exist in the current models of community-based outreach because not enough people are doing it. If more people do it then maybe a more fundamental impact would be achieved. So, I look forward to seeing how Street Symphony continues to evolve especially after the infusion from the MacArthur grant and the current pandemic. 

The Day Everything Changed, Part 2: 5 Minutes in 658 Words

We last left off with Tracy learning that they are going to be living with One Direction from now on. What will happen next?!?!?!

…Before I could say anything, I felt my mother’s hand on my shoulder. She knelt down and gave me a hug. “You’re going to live with One Direction now.”   

I tried to suppress my smile as I felt my mother’s arms surround me. I could hear her attempt to present a reassuring front, and as I hugged her back I tried to convey through my squeeze that everything was going to be okay. 

As the hug ended, I took a step away from my mom and looked at my father’s face. He was solemn, and I shot him a smile before turning and facing the five boys across the room from us. I could tell they were sitting on the couch before I arrived, they were still standing in front of the slightly deflated cushions they previously occupied. They looked strangely nervous. 

I smiled wide, and slowly approached them. I could tell that my smile put them at ease, and before I was within arms reach I stopped. I stood across from them, the only thing in between us the antique mahogany coffee table riddled with water marks from years of use. I looked down at the old wood table and noticed the small chips from when I ran into it or dropped something on it over my past 14 years. It was comforting to see this relic and to know that no matter what happens next, everything’s going to be okay. 

And so I took a deep breath, and exhaled before kicking the table in front of me, triggering the hidden compartment to launch the anti-shape-shifter quasar beam about 4 to 5 feet into the air, so I could comfortably and ergonomically grab it. It was so smooth, and made me happy that I spent the extra $50 to get it installed with Murphy’s Secret Compartments.

Murphy’s Secret Compartments

Discreet, Unnoticeable, Murphy’s

With the quasar beam in hand, I blasted Zane in the face. As the rest of 1-Directions’ faces morphed into surprise, Zane’s melted into a multidimensional cosmic geometry that was unrecognizable from a human perspective. My dad quickly sprang across the room and punched the thermostat, which triggered the dimensional phase reaffirmer; banishing all revealed multidimensional beings from our reality. 

As Zane was bleeped out of existence, I could smell fecal matter coming from the part of the room occupied by the remaining 1-Directioners. I tossed my beam to my mother, barking “Cover me” as I kicked the table two more times resulting in two more beams being launched out. The first landed in my hands smoothly, and the second flew past my father’s hands, missing his reach by inches. “Dammit, Murphy!” I heard my dad mutter. 

“Dad, don’t blame Murphy. That’s what happens when you don’t keep up with your training.”

“You’re right, Tracy.” My dad said with his head slightly hanging. 

“No time for this though,” I said with authority. “It’s time to take care of some multidimensional cosmic beings that we haven’t come up with a catchy name for yet but would appreciate suggestions!”

“Hell yeah!” My mom said as she shot a beam at Niel. But he dodged it as Harry picked up the landline and threw it through the bay windows that Murphy’s brother Richard was supposed to make bullet-proof next weekend. The 4 remaining boys jumped through the glass hole as we let beams fly after them, but they got away safely. 

“Dammit!” my dad said, slamming his blaster to the ground. 

“Calm down dad! We don’t have the budget to be replacing anti-shape-shifter quasar beams willy-nilly.”

“Sorry Tracy.” My dad said with a timbre of remorse in his voice. He picked up his beam and wiped it off. 

“It’s okay dad, now let’s banish this boy band!” I said as I donned my aviators. 

The Olin Purity Test

The Purity Test is a voluntary opportunity for students to bond, and to track the maturation of their experiences throughout college.

Add one point for every item you have done. Your total number of points at the end is the % corrupted by Olin you are.

Caution: This is not intended to be a bucket list. Completion of all items on this test will likely result in becoming Olin Man.

1. Been a NINJA/CA

2. Watched a movie in the Nord

3. Hosted a Slack event

4. Asked for an extension

5. Tickled the gate

6. Played pool in the pool room

7. Been to midnight Dodgeball

8. Made a post it mural

9. Played spoon assassins

10. Drifted in lot D

11. Been to an SG meeting

12. Been on the roof

13. Sent an accidental all students

14. Taken clothes from freecycle

15. Broken your Olin laptop (+1 for taking it apart and then trying to get IT to get you a new one)

16. Gone to parcel B past midnight

17. Reached a first name basis with custodial/kitchen staff

18. Attended friendsgiving

19. Started a club

20. Done a personal project in the shop

21. Left your door unlocked/key in door for weeks or months

22. Celebrated Bill Warner day (+1 for organizing)

23. Celebrated California day/Florida day (+1 if it was you)

24. Attended a party

25. Played rage cage

26. Gone to Power Hour

27. Hosted a party

28. Attended 30 second videos

29. Make a 30 second video

30. Drank in the Nord

31. Used the Olin van

32. Had a one on one with PGP

33. Cross registered

34. Joined a research team

35. Met another Oliner outside of Massachusetts by chance (Lost the Olin Challenge)

36. Given a campus tour (official or unofficial) 

37. Attended dark roast

38. Performed at dark roast

39. Completed floor to four

40. Changed majors

41. Went to ACRONYM

42. Unlocked your mailbox less than 8 times

43. Dropped a class right before the deadline 

44. Broken something in the dining hall

45. Sold a SERV auction item

46. Played sardines in the MAC

47. Went to the dump

48. Used a soldering iron without fume succ

49. Pulled an all nighter

50. Had a fire in parcel B

51. Broke a shop tool

52. Participated in hosting candidates week/weekend

53. Parked in secret spot

54. Were part of a club that no longer exists

55. Had your AHS concentration rejected

56. Spun fire

57. Sent out a P&M survey

58. Lost your prox

59. Damaged your dorm drywall

60. Dinner in the dining hall as “team bonding”

61. Did 24-hour POE/PIE

62. Gone to a FWOP show (+1 if you were audience participated on) 

63. Gone a whole semester without writing a paper or taking a test

64. Used an Olin acronym around non-Oliners and forgotten to explain it

65. Checked out a non-book item from the library

66. Ridden a unicycle

67. Procrastinated on a passionate pursuit until the last minute

68. Dated an Oliner

69. With another Oliner ;)

70. Presented at Expo

71. Driven people for FlyOlinFly

72. Gone to free skate night at the Babson rink

73. Tried to open a door from the wrong side

74. Had a spontaneous conversation in the dining hall that lasted past closing

75. Did a co curricular 

76. Spent more than 5 consecutive hours at NINJA/CA hours

77. Posted flyers anywhere on campus

78. Taught a class 

79. Kept a “fish” in the dorms

80. Started your own business

81. Used the poster printer for personal use

82. Killed an arduino/microcontroller

83. Slept in a lounge

84. Performed in front of the student body (+1 for each different medium, e.g., FWOP + OCO + Story Slam + …)

85. Met a non-Oliner who already knew about Olin

86. Gotten a concussion while at Olin

87. Taken an LOA/studied abroad

88. Missed a final

89. Done a naked lap

90. Honor Boarded someone

91. Brought your own spices/sauces to the dining hall

92. Broken a project the night before its due

93. Done a whole project the night before its due

94. Buried or unburied something in parcel B

95. Presented an Olin project/research at a conference off campus

96. Texted a professor

97. Drank with a professor

98. Spent more than $500 on a p-card for a single item

99. Wore a blue morph suit with a vinyl-cut “O” on the front and called yourself “Olin Man”

100. Contributed to Frankly Speaking

Job Posting; Software Engineer

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Our company is revolutionizing the world of communication. We bring billions of people closer together on a daily basis, and we think this is a good idea because we haven’t really thought about this and have no plans to start doing so. Also, our founders grew up in white upper-middle-class suburban neighborhoods and have no concept of what “revolution” actually means.

We are looking for a rockstar-guru-ninja-genius-wizard-10x-coder to join our team of rule-breakers who are changing the world through distributed hyper-automated peer-to-peer machine-learning-powered SaaS platforms.

Our Values

  • We work in a highly collaborative, team-based environment! Wow, “we” has a ring to it! Maybe we should have a new motto? Something like “Made by We”.
  • We are truly committed to our mission of using disruptive and groundbreaking* technology to democratize communication. This is something that we say so that we don’t feel too bad about destroying actual democracies.

Minimum qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent coding bootcamp experience. We like to point to coding bootcamp graduates as examples that upward mobility really does exist!
  • Excited to find life-fulfilling work in optimizing ad delivery on mobile platforms
  • Below the age of 30, because young people are just smarter™

Nice to have

  • Proof of white men in tech worship—Bezos bobblehead preferred
  • No experience working in retail or manual labor, but willing to criticize gig economy workers who want to unionize for not working hard enough
  • Medium post explaining that homeless San Franciscans just have the wrong mindset

Benefits include

  • Working with some of the smartest people in the world, who definitely should be working on a website that turns middle-aged men into QAnon fanatics instead of developing solutions to the climate crisis or advocating for human rights
  • Making the world a better place while conveniently earning $200,000 a year
  • Contributing to rapid gentrification of neighboring communities by being able to pay 2x the asking price on a home with your tech salary
  • Coworkers who write memos explaining why women and minorities are unqualified to be working at our company
  • Regular New York Times exposés of company leadership’s poor handling of sexual harassment cases

*But not literally groundbreaking! We’re not at all like the bad guys in the oil-and-gas industry, who pay their workers lots of money to help them forget they’re ruining the world. Not at all like them.